Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Clementine Christmas Cookies

Happy holidays everyone!

For about 40 cookies (depending on their thickness and the size of your cookie cutters)
  • 250 g (2 cups) flour
  • 200 g (1 cup) sugar
  • 125 g (1/2 cup or just over 1 stick) butter
  • 1 clementine
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 or 2 egg yolks
  1. Cut the butter in small pieces and allow it to warm up to room temperature (you can use a microwave for a few seconds).
  2. Combine the butter, sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Rub the ingredients between your hands to obtain a uniform "sand."
  3. Squeeze the clementine. Add half of the juice to the flour mix and briefly kneed with your hands. Add more juice as needed to obtain a shiny, elastic dough that doesn't stick to your hands. Shape dough into a ball. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
  4. Roll the dough down to 3 or 4 millimeters. Cut out shapes. Place on a non-stick cookie sheet (or use parchment paper). Lightly brush each cookie with egg yolk.
  5. Bake in a 360ºF (180ºC) oven for 10-12 minutes, until golden. Keep an eye on the cookies as they will rapidly change color. Uneven oven temperature and uneven cookie thickness will make them cook more or less rapidly.
  6. Let the cookies cool down and enjoy, or store in a metal box for later.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chestnut stuffing

When I see fresh chestnuts at the farmer's market or in the produce aisle, I can't resist: I buy a bag. They remind me of the "chestnut fair" ("la vogue des marrons"), a traveling carnival that takes place every fall atop the Croix Rousse hill in Lyon. Amidst the noisy, flashy rides and cotton candy vendors are fire-roasted chestnut vendors. They roast fresh chestnuts from Ardèche, the nearby producing region, in big barrels over a crackling and smoking wood fire. They serve the hot, blackened chestnuts in cones made of newspaper. You warm up your hands by holding the cone for a few minutes, then shell the chestnuts one by one, trying not to burn your fingers, and eat them while still steamy. What a treat.

Chestnuts also remind me of Christmas meals. Chestnut-stuffed roast turkey, served with sautéed apples and more chestnuts, is one of the traditional Christmas dishes in my family. Here is a recipe for the stuffing, adapted from my 1991 Larousse de la Cuisine.

The recipe is for a 9-lb (4-kg) turkey. Since this attempt was just for fun (and for the 4 of us), I didn't buy a whole turkey but two drumsticks, and baked the stuffing (or dressing, rather) around them. The turkey pieces were simply seasoned with salt and pepper and brushed with sunflower oil. I baked them for about one hour at 350ºF (180ºC), adding the dressing about 20 minutes before the end.
  • one bag fresh chestnuts (1.6 lbs or 740 g)
  • 4 strips bacon, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 thin, boneless pork chop (about 1/3 lb or 150 g), diced
  • 1 apple (Pink Lady for example), thinly sliced
  • salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg, 2 whole cloves, 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  1. Cut a cross into each chestnut with a sharp, pointy knife.
  2. Roast the chestnuts on a cookie sheet, cross facing up, in a 450ºF (230ºC) oven for about 30 minutes. Let them cool down a little then peel them (use your hands to break the shells and remove them). Crumble the chestnuts between your hands or chop them coarsely with a chef's knife.
  3. Fry the diced bacon and chopped onion in a pan for a few minutes.
  4. Add the diced pork and cook for a few more minutes.
  5. Add the apple slices. Season with salt and spices. Toss well. Cook for a few minutes.
  6. Remove from the heat and toss in the crumbled chestnuts.
  7. Use as turkey or chicken stuffing, or bake separately as dressing for 20 minutes.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Potato gratin with bacon

A beautiful potato dish came out of the oven yesterday night, all steamy an bubbly. We took a few bites, then a few more, and we would have eaten the whole dish if it wasn't for this blog. I wanted to take a picture but there wasn't enough light... Now this cold leftover doesn't look half as nice as the dish did yesterday, but hopefully it gives you an idea... The potatoes literally melted in our mouths. Yum!

Serves 2
(prep time: 10 minutes, cooking time: 1 hour)

  • 4 big Yukon gold potatoes
  • 4 strips bacon
  • 1/2 big yellow onion
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 tsp butter
  • about 1 cup whole milk
  • about 4 oz. (100 g) gruyère cheese
  • salt, pepper, nutmeg
  1. Peel the potatoes, rinse them and slice them. Dice the bacon. Chop the onion. Place all in a large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle with salt, freshly ground black pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. Toss well.
  3. Rub a glass or ceramic oven-safe dish with garlic (here's my dish). (Discard what remains of the garlic clove.)
  4. Butter the dish, then throw in the potatoes and gently shake the dish from left to right to arrange the potatoes in an even layer.
  5. Pour the milk.
  6. Bake for about 45 minutes at 360ºF (180ºC).
  7. Take out of the oven momentarily and grate gruyère cheese on top. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes or so, checking from time to time until the cheese forms a nice, golden crust.
  8. Eat with a side of escarole salad.